LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) – Before June 29, 2012, few in the D.C.-Baltimore region knew the word derecho. But for those living in the area then, it’s hard to forget the violent storms that pummeled the East Coast.
The storm killed 13 and left more than 4 million without power. In addition to the people killed in the derecho, 34 more died from the heat wave that followed in areas without power.
The high in Washington that day soared to a record 104 degrees. The oppressive heat crippled a region left without air conditioning due to outages.
Huge trees fell across streets in Washington – leaving cars crunched underneath them – and onto the fairway at the AT&T National golf tournament in Maryland. In some Virginia suburbs, emergency 911 call centers were out of service. A state commission said the 911 outage was caused by Verizon’s failure to perform necessary maintenance.
Gas stations were shut down, cell phone and Internet service was spotty and residents were urged to conserve water until sewage plants returned to power.
Emergencies were declared in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia, where former Gov. Bob McDonnell said the state had its largest non-hurricane outage in history, as more storms threatened. “This is a very dangerous situation,” the governor said.
Thousands remained in the dark in the aftermath of the storm. In February 2013, the Maryland Public Service Commission said electric utilities needed to “harden” distribution systems to improve reliability following the storm.
Two months after the derecho, President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for Maryland to help recovery efforts.
A derecho is a straight-line wind storm that sweeps over a large area at high speeds. It can produce tornado-like damage. The storm, which can pack wind gusts of up to 90 mph, began in the Midwest, passed over the Appalachian Mountains and then drew new strength from a high pressure system as it hit the southeastern United States.
Listen to WNEW’s derecho coverage that won the Edward R. Murrow Award for Continuing Coverage.